Heart Attack Symptoms That All Women Should Know
May 19, 2014

Heart Attack Symptoms That All Women Should Know

Recently, I wrote about the 10 health concerns that all women should learn more about. For a few weeks, I will be delving deeper into most of these. For the first one, I wanted to look deeper into the heart attack symptoms that women should not ignore. As ABC News explains, and as I explained in my aforementioned blog, women often confuse heart attack symptoms with other issues, so it is important to simply break down just what those symptoms are.

Before jumping into these, women need to understand just what a heart attack is. WebMD identifies that a heart attack results from the death of heart muscle cells. This happens when the heart does not receive enough of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to nourish it and keep it functioning. When blood vessels become clogged or blocked by plaque and cholesterol, blood does not flow properly to the heart thus the heart experiences permanent damage from the death of heart muscle cells. Basically, a heart attack occurs when blood does not flow to and through the heart properly. Without proper blood flow, the heart cannot function and parts of it die.

Because the heart is one of the body’s most important organs, any damage is dangerous. This is why it is crucial to understand the symptoms. This becomes doubly important for women because heart disease is the number one killer of women AND most women do not even recognize that they are experiencing a heart attack. Let’s take a look at the most common symptoms.

1) Tingling Down One or Both Arms or Legs

One of the telltale signs of heart attack is the tingling. Sometimes people characterize this as arm pain. Often, people misinterpret the pain as a simple pinched nerve or arthritis in the neck, but it might also be the signs of a heart attack. If one experiences tingling or pain in the extremities, she should definitely rule out heart problems.

2) Nausea or Vomiting

Though we often attribute nausea and vomiting to stomach bugs, these two symptoms just might be heart related. In conjunction with other heart-related signs, nausea or vomiting could also indicate a heart attack. Many women discount this symptom simply because they are used to feeling nauseated or vomiting due to other illnesses, but in combination with these other symptoms, one must seek medical attention.

3) Shortness of Breath or Racing Heart

The third important symptom of a heart attack to recognize is shortness of breath or racing heart. Like other symptoms, women often mistake these as something else, specifically as panic attacks. As ABC News explains, “It can be really difficult to differentiate between a panic attack and a heart attack, since they share these symptoms. A few tells: Panic attacks can be triggered by a stressful event (though not always), and other signs can include trembling, intense terror and an overwhelming sense of doom. Panic attacks also typically come on suddenly and should pass within five minutes, while women’s heart-attack symptoms tend to start slowly and linger. The only way to be sure about what’s happening, however, is to get to the ER.”

4) Jaw Pain

Many women do not know that jaw pain could mean heart attack. Why is this? Well, the nerves attached to the jaw are positioned close to the nerves that come out of the heart. Constant jaw pain is likely an indication of dental problems; however, intermittent jaw pain that worsens when one exerts herself is likely related to heart issues. Either way, jaw pain requires medical attention.

5) Dizziness or Light-headedness

Feeling dizzy after a tough workout is common. Feeling dizzy for no obvious reason is not. The latter could mean that the heart is not getting enough blood, which could mean a heart attack. If a woman feels dizzy for no apparent reason, then she should get to a doctor asap.

6) Discomfort or Burning in the Chest or Back

Many women have mistaken a heart attack for indigestion. The most common description of a heart attack is tightness, heaviness, pressure, squeezing, or burning in the chest. These are also the common descriptions of indigestion, which is why it is important not to discount these symptoms especially if they happen along side some of these other symptoms.

7) Extreme Fatigue

If merely walking around the corner is too much, then one might be in the throws of a heart attack. Extreme fatigue results from the heart not receiving enough blood, which happens with a heart attack.

The first key to understanding these symptoms is to know our bodies. Secondly, women need to know that not all heart attacks exhibit all of these symptoms, so if one feels any of these symptoms, she should talk to her doctor, and if she experiences any combination of these, she should get to the ER as soon as possible. Knowledge is the first step in prevention, reaction, and treatment.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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